PHILADELPHIA - Denard Span's offensive numbers this season certainly aren't where he'd like them.
Span's .256/.312/.349 slash line entering tonight's game is well below his career line of .281/.353/.385 across the board.
But even though he's had his issues offensively and has battled a bruised foot for much of the last six weeks, Span hasn't let his defense suffer.
The Nationals center fielder again showed what he brings to the table defensively in the fifth inning tonight, charging a single to center off the bat of Cliff Lee and gunning Delmon Young at the plate to end the inning.
Span got to the ball quickly and his throw was a strong one, but he needed a nice catch and tag from Kurt Suzuki, who brought the ball down and swiped his glove across the plate to the third base side in order to nab Young before he could get to the dish.
Suzuki has also struggled offensively this season, but that was an impressive play to keep this game tied 1-1 after five.
Despite the fact there were two outs at the time of Lee's single, I question Phillies third base coach Ryne Sandberg's decision to send Young home there. Young is probably one of the slower runners in the majors, and the Phillies had the top of the order due up after Lee.
Yes, Young was moving on contact and Span had to charge a good ways to come get the ball. But with Ben Revere on deck (a guy who has been hot lately), I put the brakes on Young there if I'm Sandberg.
Regardless, the Nats and Phillies are still knotted up thanks to a strong defensive play by Span, who has made a number of them this season.
Ross Detwiler has thrown just 54 pitches through five innings, allowing three hits along the way.
Update: Detwiler worked his way into trouble in the sixth, and couldn't get out of it before the damage had already been done.
The Phillies had four hits and got a runner on via a hit-by-pitch, and they were able to turn it into three runs. Michael Young scored Revere from first with a double down the right field line, and Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard then reached to lead the bases.
Detwiler nearly fought his way out of the jam by striking out Domonic Brown and Delmon Young, but he left a 2-0 sinker up to Kevin Frandsen, who laced it into left for a single. Steve Lombardozzi didn't get a great read on the ball off the bat, and it fell just in front of him, allowing two runs to score.
It's 4-1 Phillies after six. Yet again, the onus is on the Nats' offense to push some guys across and get back into a game in which they find themselves trailing.
Update II: Jeff Kobernus has made things a bit more interesting, launching his first career home run in the eighth, cutting the Phillies' lead to 4-2.
Kobernus' first big league longball came against Lee, of all people. That'll be a cool story to tell the grandkids.
For now, the Nats still trail by two going to the bottom of the eighth. The Kobernus bomb was nice, but the Nats need more of that action to avoid dropping this series.
Update III: That'll do it. The Nats fall to the Phillies 4-2, giving Philadelphia the series win with the finale of this three-game series set for tomorrow.
The Nats connected for two solo home runs off Lee, but little else. They scored three runs or fewer for the 41st time in 70 games, drop back to two games below .500 on the season and now sit in a tie with the Phillies for second place in the National League East.